Why is my baby taking short naps?

Short naps are the worst! There you are finally having a few minutes to yourself and baby takes a short nap. You barely had the time to get comfortable on your couch or throw in a load of laundry, and you are back to feeding or playing. I thought short naps would derail my whole day & night, but they never did. Short naps absolutely panicked me, and they shouldn’t have. My infant daughter took many short naps but thankfully she always slept through the night. If you are new to The Full Feedings Method or have been here a while, if you have one short nap or several short naps, we can help keep your days and nights on track. Don’t short nap panic!

So, first let’s figure out what is causing your short naps…

    • Check your Optimal Wake Time (OWT)! Too long of a wake window can cause a short nap the same way too short of a wake window can!
    • It might be time to move into the next guide. If you are within two weeks of moving into the next monthly guide you can start to slowly increase OWT.
    • Bulk up those feeds! It may be time to increase the milk being offered.
    • If your baby isn’t rolling yet, keep the swaddle!
    • Survey the nap environment
    • Start a nap time routine.

We would describe a short nap as waking up from a nap after 30 minutes or less. Several things can cause short naps, but what we see cause this the most is over-tiredness. Over-tiredness causes short naps or difficulty falling asleep, or both, so we want to make sure your baby is asleep by their age-appropriate OWT, not just starting the nap time routine at the time listed on your guide. Optimal Wake Time is the amount of time a baby should stay awake, not the amount of time they could stay awake. When they stay awake longer than they should, their cortisol levels rise and they become irritable and fight sleep. We want to have them asleep by the age-appropriate OWT, so we usually recommend starting to rock your baby 15 minutes before the end of the OWT so we don't miss it. Don’t worry, we will work on initiating independent sleep later, but first let’s get you sleeping through the night! People often want to rely on sleepy cues, but we find that sometimes sleepy cues can be tricky but the clock never lies. As Sara says, OWT is your sleepy cue!

Sometimes babies are able to fall asleep after too short of a wake window but not able to stay asleep for the entire nap. Too short of an OWT can cause a short nap in the same way too long of a wake window can.  If you are experiencing short naps check your guide, it may be time to move into the next one. If you are following the age-appropriate OWT and still having short naps you can start to transition into the next guide if you are within two weeks of the next guide’s starting age.

Another culprit of short naps is hunger! Even slight hunger can cause your baby to wake early from a nap. Each month you should be expecting to increase intake. Your baby is ever changing which is why we are always trying to help you change with them. Even half of an ounce more at each feed can make the difference in a short nap  or a long one and a sleep disrupted night or 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Parents often ask how to increase intake, I wrote a blog on Troubleshooting Full Feedings With Your Infant, which explains how we stay on top of increased intake needs for your baby.

The nap environment is also a large factor in taking longer naps. We always want you to be following the ABC’s of safe infant sleep. Alone on their Back, in the Crib. If your baby isn’t rolling yet, keep them swaddled. Parents often ask if swaddling their baby will cause a sleep crutch, it won’t, but it could help your baby from waking themselves up unnecessarily. We want to make sure the room where your baby sleeps is dark, distraction free with loud white noise playing. Your baby should be dressed warmly for all sleeps! You can do a double swaddle or two sleep sacs to help insulate them better. 

We always want to put your baby in the optimal position for sleep to come easily. Having a nap time routine can help with that. It can be an abbreviated version of your night time routine, we just need something to trigger to them that sleep is coming and is expected. Changing baby into pajamas for all sleeps is a great, quick routine that signifies sleep. We want you to make sure your nap time routine is over with plenty of time left for your baby to fall asleep by their OWT.

If you are experiencing short naps, troubleshoot what’s going on with what is listed above and don’t stress. Short naps don’t mean that your baby won’t sleep through the night, the times listed on the monthly guides are the MAXIMUM amount of time we want your baby to sleep. It is possible to sleep less that what is recommended and still have 12 hours of overnight sleep you just need to keep following the age appropriate OWT and help your baby sleep if you can!

To sleeping well,

P.S. If you're not yet a member, you can learn more about The Full Feedings Method Infant Online Program here. Let's make today the beginning of the end of your sleepless nights, mama!